Those of you who know me know that I love few things in life, but those that I love, I love fiercely! Two of the things on that list are craft beer (things you know from reading this site!) and the New York Junior League. The NYJL is a group of nearly 3,000 women who volunteer a quarter of a million hours annually to benefit women, children and families in New York City. I am honored to have been a part of this group for nearly a decade now.
But this Wednesday, worlds collided – two of my loves came together – there was craft beer in the pantry at the league! Working with the food and beverage committee at the NYJL, we hosted an introduction to craft beer tasting. With a carefully selected line up of New York State Craft Brews that would appeal to the craft novice while representing the full spectrum of available styles, we launched into a very classy tasting!
Hosted in the Roosevelt room, a pine paneled dining room with black and white checkered marble floors, complete with linen table cloths, the event was a huge success! 25 energetic and interested attendees (with one of my favorite people in the front row) learned about the craft beer industry, it’s growth over the past decade, and the unique place that New York holds in that market. We reviewed the basics of brewing and shared some interesting tales of the trade – why is a “Russian Imperial Stout called ‘Russian?'” “Where did the name India Pale Ale come from?” and “Who came up with the idea of a milk stout?” There was discussion about choosing the right glass and temperature for serving – good news for the NYJL who focuses the majority of their beverage service on wine, a wine glass works perfectly and, in my opinion is the best all purpose! There were LOTS of good questions from the audience – everything from “what is a trippelbock?” to “what makes a sour beer sour?”
We talked about pairing beer with food – specifically with both turkey and beef chilis whipped up by the NYJL’s chef, John Donnelly. We experienced how a hoppy IPA can up the ante on the spice profile while a milk stout can really cool things down. Of course, I gave a bit of a shout-out to my favorite beer pairing ever, the stout float. Participants took tasting notes on (of course) light pink tasting cards for each brew, after being introduced to some of the most common words used to describe beer. With side-by-side tastings of Amber Ale and a Wheat beer in the first round IPA and a Stout in the second round, we explored the contrast in flavors and what it means to have a “hoppy” beer or a “malty” beer. In talking with some of the attendees, I heard time and time again that their eyes had been opened. A woman who admitted that a Heineken was the “darkest beer she’d ever ordered” learned that she loves a coffee milk stout. Another who admitted that she “didn’t like beer” was looking forward to trying more amber and brown ales! It’s fair to say that the audience heard what I had to say and were on board with the “craft beer revolution!”
Following the formal tasting, we went upstairs to the Pine Room, a cozy little lounge with velvet couches and a fireplace, to allow everyone to get a full bottle of their favorite tasting (served in a wine glass, of course!). Within 30 minutes, several of the styles had run out sending me, along with staff members, to the basement to re-stock!
I truly never thought I would see the day when the entire Pine Room was full of craft beer drinkers who were excited to order and talking about beer. To say this tasting was a success is an understatement. When asked afterwards if there is anything I would have changed in hindsight, the answer was a resounding “No.” without a moment’s hesitation. Thank you to the NYJL for giving me the chance to host this amazing event, I can’t wait to do it again, I’m already brainstorming ideas for a theme!
Coney Island Brewing 1609 Amber Ale: A malty amber ale, you might almost call this a brown ale… some caramel and honey with a light hint of citrus.
Brooklyn Brewery Greenmarket Wheat: light fruits, with citrus most forward, and some tropical tanginess but also an earthy spice. Very clear for being unfiltered!
Ithaca Beer Company Flower Power: Floral (hence the name!), peachy, piney, earthy, so very many hops but with enough malt to balance it out and let you know that this is an East Coast IPA
Keegan Ales Joe Mama’s Milk: Chocolate, coffee, heavier consistency you would expect of a milk stout. So drinkable and delicious. This beer could be dessert any day!